Venom - Blue Underground Blu-Ray Review
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Format: Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack
Starring: Sterling Hayden, Klaus Kinski, Sarah Miles, Nicol Williamson, Susan George and Oliver Reed as Dave.
Directed by: Piers Haggard
SYNOPSIS: Sweaty, hyper, mad bastard Oliver Reed, simmering, goggle eyed, mad bastard Klaus Kinski and sweaty, mad, sex-pot Susan George attempt to swipe a posh, animal loving brat from under the nose of madly bearded Sterling Hayden but are scuppered at the last moment by a mix-up at a pet shop that causes, after an unlikely series of events, a deadly black mamba to be unleashed in a London town house. Mad, Scottish bastard Nicol Williamson is the policeman with the house under siege as tensions rise, nostrils flare and Kinski's wardrobe gets ever so flouncy and beige in Venom.
REVIEW: With a synopsis like that I wasn't quite sure how the movie came out to be quite so dull. Then I read the excellent booklet and listened to the commentary that came with this wonderful Blu-Ray and it started to make sense. Without going into too much hullabaloo and history here (go buy the Blu-Ray you cheapskates!), let's just say that both production and, more importantly, the script (based on the novel by Alan Scholefield) had a few complications.
Before you even get to Oliver Reed, Klaus Kinski and a bleedin' deadly Black Mamba snake tearing all over the set like lunatics, there were multiple re-writes, one even done by someone who ended up having a nervous breakdown during its completion, there was a partnership disagreement that also heavily impacted the final shooting script and, original director, Tobe Hooper left the project. To say Venom had a troubled birth is something of an understatement.
Then in walks the delightfully British and completely unrufflable, jobbing Director Piers Haggard who had a number of TV plays and miniseries to his name, not least of which was Pennies From Heaven, the heavily lauded Dennis Potter series. While, by his own admission, he wasn't able to make the artistic flourishes or script amendments he would've liked, it's a testament to him and cinematographer, the legendary Gilbert Taylor (Star Wars, Flash Gordon, Dr.Strangelove) that the film is as watchable as it is.
Sadly the script gives little for anyone to do, except sort of stand around and be tetchy, and if it wasn't for the sheer presence and screen power of Kinski, Reed, Hayden and Williamson, then Venom really wouldn't be worth much of anything at all.
It really is a case where casting, a solid, level headed director and an impressive cinematographer elevate what is a badly written, boring mess of a movie. All my enjoyment, and, to be fair, there was quite a bit, was derived from watching which bit of scenery someone would chew or inhale next, the rare occasion that the ludicrous (and largely pointless) snake would make an appearance and noticing the odd well staged and well lit camera shot. It was pretty difficult though to shake the constant nagging feeling of "oh damn I wish this was better".
There was so much potential but it neither comes close to the fun shlock of, say, Alligator or rises above its B Movie stylings to become some mad, wonderful piece of nostril flaring performance art. It comes close and there are moments the film really glimmers with bonkers nonsense but all too often you're wishing someone would just do SOMETHING interesting.
BLU-RAY REVIEW: As with most Blue Underground releases, the Blu-Ray really does help and add value to the existing movie. While there aren't a plethora of drool-worthy extras, for example a great Susan George interview would've been perfect, the film looks so very good and the companion booklet and director's commentary/interview more than explain the troubled production and gives an intriguing insight into Reed and Kinski's on-set madness.
As much as we love them, it is bloody incredible that Reed and Kinski were allowed to just run rough-shot over any set they were on. Who kept hiring them? As much as it is fun to hear about, all these years later, I imagine being there with them was the pits.
- Audio Commentary with Director Piers Haggard
- Theatrical Trailer
- Teaser Trailer
- TV Spots
- Poster & Still Gallery
- BONUS Collectable Booklet featuring new writing by Fangoria Editor Michael Gingold
- 7.1 DTS-HD; 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX; 2.0 DTS-HD / 6.1 DTS-ES; 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX; Stereo
- English SDH, French, Spanish
- 1.85:1 / 16x9
- 92 Mins
- Rated R
- Region Code: ALL